How bad could it get? For the United States, it seems there is no bottom.
Back in March, I wrote that the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic would likely shape its economic, political, and geopolitical fortunes for years or decades to come. Four months later, it’s time for a check-in. How’s that pandemic response going?
Not so well, it seems. The US has the world’s highest number of cases and deaths overall. And of the world’s 25 worst hotspots for transmission, in terms of new cases per day per million of population, 15 are US states.
Early success at “flattening the curve” of the graph of new cases reported daily was followed by a re-opening of the economy that was premature (i.e., before sufficient capacity for testing and contact tracing had been put in place), resulting in a surge of new cases.
The only good news the Trump administration can point to is a fairly stable and low death rate as compared to the number of new cases. This “low” death rate (hundreds are still dying each day) is attributable to improving treatment methods for patients who have been infected, a lower average age of those infected, and an understandable lag between the infection trend and the deaths trend. If the last of these factors is significant, then the number of daily deaths will start climbing soon—as the last few days’ numbers already seem to indicate.
In addition, the United States is one of the countries hardest hit economically by the pandemic. Its latest unemployment rate stands at 11.1 percent (which doesn’t include discouraged workers), as compared to Germany’s 5.5 percent, Japan’s 2.6 percent, and the UK’s 4 percent.
As bad as they are, these statistics don’t fully capture the situation. If the US federal government had a long-range plan for weathering the pandemic, perhaps the death and suffering would be justifiable. But evidently there is no realistic plan.
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